Morphological and functional impairment in the gut in a partial body irradiation minipig model of GI-ARS

Amandeep Kaur, Gabriëlla A.M. ten Have, Bernadette Hritzo, Nicolaas E.P. Deutz, Cara Olsen, Maria Moroni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Göttingen minipig (G-MP) displays classic gastrointestinal acute radiation syndrome (GI-ARS) following total body irradiation (TBI) at GI doses which are lethal by 10–14 days. In collaboration with BARDA, we are developing a hemi-body/partial body irradiation (PBI) model by exposing only the abdomen and lower extremities to study GI structure/function impairment, natural history of injury and recovery, as well as correlative biomarkers out to 30 days. Materials and methods: Twenty-four G-MP were exposed to either 12 or 16 Gy (LINAC Elekta); head, forelimbs, and thorax were outside the irradiation field, sparing ∼50% of the bone marrow. Animals were followed for 30 days with euthanasia scheduled at pre-set intervals to study the time course of GI injury and recovery. Hematological profiles, clinical symptoms, gross- and histo-pathology including markers of proliferation and apoptosis in the small intestines, gut function parameters (food tolerance, digestion, absorption, citrulline production), and levels of two biomarkers, CRP and IGF-1, were evaluated. Results: PBI at 16 Gy yielded higher lethality than 12 Gy. Unlike TBI, PBI did not cause severe pancytopenia or external hemorrhage, as expected, and allowed to focus the injury on GI organs while sparing the radiation sensitive heart and lung. Compromised animals showed inactivity, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Histology revealed that in 12 Gy irradiated animals, lesions recovered overtime. In 16 Gy irradiated animals, lesions were more pronounced and persistent. BrdU and Ki67 labelling demonstrated dose-dependent loss of crypts and subsequent mucosal ulceration which recovered over time. Minimal apoptosis was observed at both doses. Reductions in food tolerance, digestion, absorption, and citrulline production were time and dose-dependent. Loss of citrulline reached a nadir between 6-12 days and then recovered partially. CRP and IGF-1 were upregulated following PBI at GI doses. Conclusions: This lower hemi-body irradiation model allowed for extended survival at GI-specific ARS doses and development of a well-controlled GI syndrome with minimal hematopoietic injury or confounding mortality from cardiopulmonary damage. A dose-dependent impairment in the intestinal structure resulted in overall decreased gut functionality followed by a partial recovery. However, while the structure appeared to be recovered, not all functionality was attained. PBI induced systemic inflammation and altered the IGF-1 hormone indicating that these can be used as biomarkers in the minipig even under partial body conditions. This PBI model aligns with other minipig models under BARDA’s large animal consortium to test medical countermeasure efficacy against a less complex GI-specific ARS injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-128
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute radiation syndrome
  • Göttingen minipig
  • digestive system functions
  • gastrointestinal
  • partial body irradiation


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